This review will have spoilers throughout, so read at your own risk.
I’ve been a fan of Holly Black since the Tithe days and really enjoy some of her other witchy series, so I am a bit biased.
This read quickly. I was initially surprised it was through not-Oak’s eyes. I had just assumed that it would be told from his perspective because he was the character we were most familiar with, so it made sense. But it also makes a lot of sense from Wren/Suren’s perspective as well, and it makes the character of Oak more opaque to us as readers, which is a good proxy for the years between the last series he was in and this one.
From a story perspective I appreciate the twisting of a lot of Russian folk tales around girls made from snow (some influence from Leigh Bardugo, maybe?). Maybe it’s just my own lack of fcks to give lately, but I found it hard to connect to some of the secondary characters, particularly the Hyacinthe / (oh-goodness-can’t-remember-his-name) other guy. The one I connected the most with was the kelpie, honestly.
This felt like a combination of too superficial and occasionally boring. I feel like it could’ve used more time at the courts or on the road to build some more empathy and emotion and gloss over a few other things. Unsure, honestly, but something about the pacing felt not-quite-right.
Some folks are a) weirded out by the hooves and b) didn’t really feel the chemistry. To be fair, I think this is Black manifesting some of the trauma Wren has experienced. When you don’t trust anyone and have particularly numb emotions, can you really say you’ve genuinely connected with anyone? One moment that stood out to me as relatively genuine was the whole scene on the dance floor.
So my cons are:
- hard to connect with secondary characters
- pacing slightly off
My pros are:
- Writing from almost an anti-hero perspective; of all the protagonists Holly Black has written Wren is one of the more inaccessible and unlikable, which you can tell Black enjoys and stretches into a bit in this
- Fast read, not a slog to get through or millions of pages long
Given the twist at the end, where she leans into her villain era and is just kinda like, “nah, whatever I’m here now I’ll take charge and I’ve got leverage (Oak)” is interesting. Black has already shared in this duology that the next book will be told from Oak’s perspective, so it’ll be compelling to see how he reacts to this shift in personality, and how much of it is Bogdana’s influence, or a front on her part to exert control over Bogdana long enough so she can dispatch of her.